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Round-trip ferry ride to Fire Island could increase by $2 under proposal

Fire_Island residents and visitors wait to board the

Fire_Island residents and visitors wait to board the ferry in Cherry Grove on Aug. 26, 2011. Credit: Barry Sloan

A round-trip passenger ferry ride to Fire Island would increase by $2 under a proposal for fare hikes approved by a Suffolk legislative committee yesterday.

In the plan, which must be approved by the full legislature, round-trip ferry passenger tickets from Bay Shore to Fire Island communities would increase by $2, to $19.

Water taxi rides between Fire Island communities, which cost between $7 and $16 each way, would increase to $9 to $18 each way. A seasonal daytime water taxi ride across the bay for up to six passengers, which currently costs $125, would go up to $175. Freight charges to haul goods to the island would also increase by an average of 18 percent.

The plan would be the first ferry rate increase since 2008 and the first water taxi rate increase since 2010, said Timothy Mooney, president of the Fire Island Ferries, which owns Fire Island Water Taxi.

Without the increases, the ferry business would lose an estimated $662,193 next year, while the water taxi would lose $262,241, according to a report by the legislature's nonpartisan Budget Review Office.

With the rate increase, the ferries would make $362,422 this year and the water taxi's loss would be reduced to $33,701.Fire Island Association president Suzanne Goldhirsch wrote in a letter to the committee that many residents felt the increases were "excessive," but they were more concerned they initially didn't have details on the company's financials and input on the decision.

Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip), who represents part of Fire Island and supported the hikes, said there were two public hearings and two meetings with community groups on the issue. "When they are done every five or six years, it's going to be a concern to people who see it all at once," Barraga said of the hikes.

Ferry service is regulated by the county and rate increases have to be approved by the legislature, which will vote on the matter on April 28.

If approved, the new rates would go into effect next month, Mooney said.

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